"Variety's the very spice of life." - Poet, William Cowper
Recently, I saw a picture of my friend's dog, Sammy, in a ridiculous position (one of many at this point) and my first reaction was to laugh as usual and shake my head. I'm pretty sure we've all seen something like this at one time or another. Immediately my next reaction was "How is that comfortable?" As you can see above, most of the time he is lounging on big fluffy pillows but it still looks like an awkward position. But then it got me thinking, maybe it isn't so awkward after all. Maybe this kind of variety is a good thing to do. Clearly it doesn't seem to faze him as he's good to go after he gets up and stretches it out a little bit just like every other dog you've ever seen. Maybe we can learn something here. Granted, humans are not dogs and dogs are not humans (even though we treat them like that sometimes). However, we are made of the same stuff like bone, muscle, nerves, ligaments, etc. so maybe it isn't such a bad comparison in this instance.
How many times are you told some position or posture is bad for you? Doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, yogis, the internet are constantly telling you what you should and shouldn't do. There are obviously some basic guidelines that are worth practicing but they may not have to be so strict. I will be the first to say that I am guilty of saying something similar to my clients over the years but more recently I've added a caveat and I think Sammy does a great job of illustrating my caveat. It goes something like this: "Just don't do it 100% of the time." None of Sammy's positions are the same so he is most definitely not doing the same thing 100% of the time.
In general, consistency, repetition and overuse are what tend to get people in trouble more than a specific position or posture itself. They end up sitting the same, standing the same, laying on the same side to watch television often for prolonged periods of time. As you can see above, Sammy doesn't subscribe to doing the same thing over and over again. He's living the dream of variety in his life (at least in sleeping positions). Maybe all of these different positions stimulate his nervous system (his brain) and the tissues of his body since nothing is ever the same. Maybe it is important to take advantage of the full range of motion of each joint at some point during the day. Maybe it is important to stretch muscles in a variety of positions throughout the day. The living body, dog or human, is extremely adaptable and can handle all kinds of positions and postures. Think break dancers and Cirque du Soleil performers. They can do all types of "crazy" and "awkward" things with their bodies and they make it out alive just fine. Just don't do the same thing 100% of the time. Chances are your body welcomes the change and variety and will be better in the long run.
So don't beat yourself up if you find yourself in a "bad" position on a super soft sofa that was really comfortable. Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself slouching as I just was until writing this sentence. Just don't do it 100% of the time and you will be ok. When you do catch yourself doing something all of the time, take some advice from Sammy: Change things up and add some variety to your life...or napping position at the very least. Your body will thank you for it.
Remember, variety's the very spice of life (in more ways than one).
Dr. Greg Cecere
Your personal physical therapist, movement educator and knowledge dispenser.
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The contents of this blog is meant for educational purposes only. Momentum Physical Therapy of New Paltz and Dr. Greg Cecere are not responsible for any harm or injury that may occur due to any information on this blog as it is by no means a substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.